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The Plight of Local Schools



William Adams’ Report gives us an insight into the education system that was prevalent in India before the British established political power in India.

The English East India Company had asked William Adam, a Scottish missionary, to provide the report on the state of local schools in Bengal and Bihar. Adam toured the two states extensively in the 1830s and presented a Report.


The report states…

  • Over 1 lakh pathshalas existed in Bengal and Bihar.

  • Pathshalas were small institutions with no more than 20 students each.

A Pathshala

  • The total number of children being taught in these pathshalas was over 20 lakhs.

  • These Pathshalas were set up by wealthy people, or the local community.

  • Some Pathshalas were started by a teacher or guru.

  • The system of education was flexible. There were no fixed fee, no printed books, no separate school building, no benches or chairs, no blackboards, no system of separate classes, no attendance registers, no annual examinations, and no regular time-table.

  • In some places classes were held under a banyan tree, in other places in the corner of a village shop or temple, or at the guru’s home.

  • Fee depended on the income of parents: the rich had to pay more than the poor. Teaching was oral, and the guru decided what to teach, in accordance with the needs of the students.

  • Students were not separated out into different classes: all of them sat together in one place.

  • The guru interacted separately with groups of children with different levels of learning.

William Adam found that this flexible system was suited to local needs. Classes were not held during harvest time when rural children worked in the fields. The pathshala started once again when the crops had been cut and stored. This helped the children of peasant families to attend school.

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